A novel alternative to cryopreservation for the short-term storage of stem cells for use in cell therapy using alginate encapsulation

Tissue Eng Part C Methods. 2013 Jul;19(7):568-76. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEC.2012.0489. Epub 2013 Jan 22.


Efficient transport of stem/progenitor cells without affecting their survival and function is a key factor in any practical cell-based therapy. However, the current approach using liquid nitrogen for the transfer of stem cells requires a short delivery time window is technically challenging and financially expensive. The present study aims to use semipermeable alginate hydrogels (crosslinked by strontium) to encapsulate, store, and release stem cells, to replace the conventional cryopreservation method for the transport of therapeutic cells within world-wide distribution time frame. Human mesenchymal stem cell (hMSC) and mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) were successfully stored inside alginate hydrogels for 5 days under ambient conditions in an air-tight environment (sealed cryovial). Cell viability, of the cells extracted from alginate gel, gave 74% (mESC) and 80% (hMSC) survival rates, which compared favorably to cryopreservation. More importantly, the subsequent proliferation rate and detection of common stem cell markers (both in mRNA and protein level) from hMSCs and mESCs retrieved from alginate hydrogels were also comparable to (if not better than) results gained following cryopreservation. In conclusion, this new and simple application of alginate hydrogel encapsulation may offer a cheap and robust alternative to cryopreservation for the transport and storage of stem cells for both clinical and research purposes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alginates / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy*
  • Cells, Immobilized / cytology
  • Cells, Immobilized / drug effects
  • Cells, Immobilized / metabolism
  • Cryopreservation / methods*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gels / pharmacology
  • Glucuronic Acid / pharmacology
  • Hexuronic Acids / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Nylons / pharmacology
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Stem Cells / metabolism


  • Alginates
  • Biomarkers
  • Gels
  • Hexuronic Acids
  • Nylons
  • Glucuronic Acid